Processing a fish from start to finish can be an intimidating prospect, especially without the right equipment. The best fillet knife is a vital tool when it comes to filleting. Options come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re an avid pescatarian well-versed in the ways of the fillet knife, or you’ve never held a fillet knife in your life, this article is here to walk you through the best fishing fillet knives in 2021.
Looking for motorized knifes only? Peruse our roundup of electric only fillet knives.
Our Top Picks: Best Fillet Knife
Let’s start with some highlights:
- Best Traditional: Shun Classic Gokujo. This durable powerhouse features a patented D-shape, resin-impregnated wooden handle, and a super-strong, thin, and flexible stainless-steel blade.
- Best Traditional on a Budget: Dexter Russel Basics. Made in the USA, this ultra-affordable blade is thin, durable, and preferred by professional fishermen worldwide.
- Best Electric: American Angler PRO. With 2-times the average torque, advanced airflow technology, and interchangeable blades, this electric fillet knife is the ultimate tool for any pescatarian endeavor.
- Best Electric on a Budget: Rapala Heavy-Duty. Thanks to dual reciprocating blades, this wallet-friendly fillet knife can handle twice the fish in half the time.
- Best Eco-Friendly: Global Knives Classic Boning. Made from a single piece of 100% recyclable and responsibly-sourced stainless steel, Global brand knives are the perfect choice for the environmentally-conscious.
- Best for the Layman: Zwilling Twin Four Star II. This basic fillet knife from the well-respecting Zwilling brand offers incredible durability with ice-hardened stainless steel.
- Best Cordless Electric: Hamilton-Beach Cordless. With no cords to get tangled and the unbelievably low price, this electric knife is the obvious choice for everything from fish to ham to bread!
- Best for Saltwater Fish: Bubba Flex. Bubba blades are some of the most famous around. This fame is thanks to their non-slip handles and stainless-steel blades coated with titanium-nitride that resists the corrosive power of saltwater.
- Best for Salmon: Kershaw Clearwater. When it comes to salmon, no one does it better than the Kershaw Clearwater! The co-polymer rubber handle is easy to grip. The 7-inch blade has the perfect level of flexibility for salmon and similar fish.
1. Shun Classic Gokujo
The best traditional fish fillet knife
Manufacturer: Shun / Blade: Proprietary Steel / Handle: Resin-Impregnated Wood / Blade Length: 6″ / Price: 💰💰💰
When it comes to traditional fillet knives, no one does it better than Shun. This powerhouse of a utensil features a patented D-shaped blade explicitly designed for filleting and deboning. Shun’s proprietary combination of 33 pressed layers of stainless steel and other metals allows their fillet knife to maintain superior strength and flexibility while still being razor-thin. The tang extends to the base of the handle, where it attaches with a single end-rivet. The handle itself is made of beautiful, resin-impregnated Pakkawood that comfortable to grip and, thanks to the resin, water-resistant and durable.
- Dishwasher safe materials
- Thin, D-shaped blade slides smoothly through flesh for quick and easy deboning
- High-carbon VG-10 stainless steel blade is strong enough to handle any type of fish
- Does not include a sheath, making storage tricky
- Reviewers warn that the blade is delivered fully sharpened — handle with caution
- The blade is flexible enough for deboning, but not as flexible as it could be for actual filleting
2. Dexter Russel Basics
The best traditional fish fillet knife on a budget
Manufacturer: Dexter / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Wood / Blade Length: 5″ / Price: 💰
This USA-made utensil is the absolute best value when it comes to a less-expensive fillet knife. Though one of the more basic models available, this knife still features a high-carbon stainless steel blade that is thin, durable, and easy to clean. The handle is an attractive white plastic that is ergonomic for comfortable use. According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the Dexter Russell Basics Fillet Knife is highly rated and preferred by fishermen all over the world.
- Ergonomic handle shape
- Quality blade at a great price that gets the job done
- Not super flexible for detail work
- Half-tang offers less strength in the blade
- The stainless-steel blade doesn’t hold a sharp edge for more than one or two uses
3. American Angler PRO
The best electric fish fillet knife
Manufacturer: American Angler / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Plastic / Blade Length: 8″ / Price: 💰💰💰
Of all the electric fillet knives we looked at, the American Angler Pro stood out for numerous reasons. The Pro series motor has 2-times more torque than other leading brands, allowing you to easily cut through the bigger bones of bigger fish. Advanced airflow means you can fillet for hours uninterrupted by overheating equipment. While this handset comes with an 8-inch stainless steel freshwater blade, it is compatible with all other American Angler and most off-brand blades. This multi-use tool is perfect for any pescatarian endeavor. The handset itself is an ergonomic shape to ensure comfortable use on fish after fish.
- Water-resistant handset
- Strong motor rends flesh and bone without a hitch
- Serrated edge of included blade never needs to be sharpened
- Serrated blade edge isn’t suited to delicate deboning work
- The electric handset has to plug-in via an 8-foot power cord
- Some reviewers noted that the included basic blade isn’t sharp enough, but found suitable replacements
4. Rapala Heavy-Duty
The best electric fish fillet knife on a budget
Manufacturer: Rapala / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Plastic / Blade Length: 7.5″ / Price: 💰💰
Thanks to dual reciprocating blades, this heavy-duty fillet knife offers twice the speed and three times the power of other standard electric fillet knives. Power through dozens of fish in half the time comfortably and confidently. The ergonomic handle absorbs the vibration of the blades, reducing any transference to your hands. With an 8-foot power cord, you’ll have plenty of room to maneuver around an outlet.
- Compatible with different blade sizes
- Dual reciprocating blades take all the effort out of filleting and skinning
- Extra-strong 100-volt motor is perfect for smaller, bonier fish like grunts, snappers, or panfish
- Some reviewers reported overheating after extended use
- There’s no storage case for the handset or included blades
- The blades aren’t super flexible, making it challenging to follow curves and free all possible meat
5. Global Knives Classic Boning
The best eco-friendly fillet knife
Manufacturer: Global / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Stainless Steel / Blade Length: 6.25″ / Price: 💰💰
Made entirely out of responsibly-sourced and fully recyclable stainless steel, Global kitchen utensils are some of the most eco-friendly on the market. Rather than a blade tang extending into a wood or plastic handle, the blade and handle are one solid piece of Cromova 18 stainless steel. This metal blend includes chromium, molybdenum, and vanadium. Its design is specifically and exclusively for Global brand blades. The long taper and short, acute bevel angle help the blade achieve and maintain a super sharp edge that surpasses even the highest carbon stainless steel alternatives. This material also allows for a thinner blade that is more flexible for detail work without sacrificing strength.
- Made from a single piece of 100% recyclable stainless steel
- Super-thin blade with acute bevel edge is incredibly sharp and flexible
- Seamless construction eliminates dust, food, and dirt traps for unparalleled safety and hygiene
- Global doesn’t make sheaths for their blades
- The handle isn’t ergonomically shaped, and some reviewers found it uncomfortable to hold
- Though capable of getting extremely sharp, the blade requires frequent sharpening to maintain the edge
6. Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Four Star II
The best fillet knife for laymen
Manufacturer: Zwilling / Blade: High-Carbon Steel / Handle: Polypropylene / Blade Length: 7″ / Price: 💰💰
If you’re looking for an essential fillet knife you can use for almost any type of fish, then the Twin Four Star II is the blade for you. Zwilling J.A. Henckels is a well-known and well-respected knife brand used by professional chefs and home cooks alike. They construct their durable fish fillet knife with high-carbon steel, ice-hardened using Zwilling’s proprietary technique. This method gives the blade added strength without limiting flexibility. The polypropylene handle is ergonomically designed for a comfortable grip, and is dishwasher safe for added convenience.
- Ergonomic, dishwasher-safe handle
- Suitable length for common fish choices like salmon, tilapia, grouper, and trout
- Ice-hardened high-carbon steel with a full tang for ultimate strength and sharpness
- Not as fancy as some competing options
- A little pricey for an everyday, basic fillet knife
- A few reviewers mentioned that the lightweight construction is almost too light for optimal control
7. Hamilton-Beach Cordless
The best cordless electric fillet knife
Manufacturer: Hamilton-Beach / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Plastic / Blade Length: 7.5″ / Price: 💰
Though not designed exclusively for filleting, this electric knife certainly gets the job done! The super-affordable price also includes a stainless-steel chef’s fork to assist in fish and other food prep. With dual reciprocating blades and a 100-watt motor, this powerhouse can carve through bone like butter and won’t flinch at denser food items like hams or other meats. Plus, the entire set comes in a convenient, storage-smart container!
- Ergonomic handle is comfortable to hold for extended time
- Dual reciprocating blades easily take care of fish and other foods
- Great price with included chef’s fork means the best bang for your buck
- Though ergonomically shaped, the handle is a little big
- Some reviewers had trouble with overheating after prolonged use
- The off/on switch is on the underside of the handle, which some found awkward
8. Bubba Flex
The best fillet knife for saltwater fish
Manufacturer: Bubba / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Proprietary Grip / Blade Length: 9″ / Price: 💰💰
When dealing with saltwater fish, there’s no better fillet knife than the Bubba 9-inch Flex! Bubba blades are well-respected in the fishing community for their durable, extra-strong blades and comfortable, ergonomic non-slip hands. This particular blade features a trigger-style handle with thumb and index finger guards. The blade itself is stainless steel coated in a titanium-nitride compound for a rust-resistant finish that can stand up to the corrosive properties of saltwater. Plus, the included sheath can snap onto your belt loop to ensure it’s always right there when you need it!
- Titanium-nitride coating protects against saltwater
- Thumb and index finger guards with trigger-style handle ensures secure, firm grip
- Non-slip handle is comfortable and perfect for slippery conditions, such as filleting out on the water
- The blade also doesn’t hold its edge as long as expected
- Though strong and thin, the blade could be more flexible for following curves
- Some reviewers noted that, when it came time to re-sharpen the blade, they had trouble getting that original razor’s edge back
9. Kershaw Clearwater
The best fillet knife for salmon
Manufacturer: Kershaw / Blade: Stainless Steel / Handle: Polymer Rubber / Blade Length: 7″ / Price: 💰
If salmon is your fish of choice, then the Kershaw Clearwater Fillet Knife should be your choice! The 7-inch blade is perfect for your average-sized salmon. It is designed with the ideal amount of flexibility for following gentle curves and getting every last morsel of meat from the bones. To ensure a firm, comfortable grip, the Kershaw Clearwater handle is a soft co-polymer rubber. Though the Clearwater fillet knife advertises as best suited for freshwater fish, the corrosion-resistant stainless-steel blade is also perfect for saltwater fish. The included plastic sheath makes safe storage easy. As a bonus, all components are made in the USA.
- Super affordable price for a high-quality, long-lasting fillet knife
- Co-polymer rubber is soft, comfortable to hold, and extra non-slip
- Blade length and flexibility is perfectly suited for salmon and similar fresh and saltwater fish
- Some reviewers found the blade too narrow for larger salmon and fish
- The included plastic sheath feels cheap and doesn’t seem secure around the blade
- Though the blade does get incredibly sharp, it has to be re-sharpened before every use
What to Look for in the Best Fillet Knives
Now you’ve got a list of the best fishing fillet knives to choose from. How do you make your pick? There are a few different things you’ll want to keep in mind to help you make a decision.
1. Blade Length
The average multi-use fillet knife blade is around 7 inches long. This length is perfect for those who enjoy the occasional fish dinner adventure, but won’t be filleting fish regularly.
If you are filleting more frequently, you’ll probably want to be more specific about your blade length. Different types of fish require different blade lengths. You can choose the blade length best suited for the species of fish you work with most often. Additionally, you can collect a range of blade sizes if you’re liable to process different kinds of fish at any given time.
2. Blade Construction
A good fillet knife needs to be flexible, strong, and thin enough to slide between toothpick bones and cleave away unnecessary skin in one piece. The angle of the blade’s sharp side (called the “edge bevel”) varies from knife to knife, but for fillet work, the ideal edge bevel is between 12 and 17 degrees.
You’ll also need to consider blade retention, aka the blade’s ability to stay sharp over time and use. You can always sharpen your knife if it gets dull, but it can get tedious for the frequent fish filleter.
3. Electric vs. Traditional
Electric fillet knives use battery or plug-in power to move serrated blades back and forth. The movement makes it extremely easy to carve through the fish and get the fillets out, making them the knife of choice for those working with high volumes of fish in a single sitting. They’re also a popular choice with less-experienced filleters who don’t have the time, patience, or desire to learn the ways of the traditional fillet knife.
However, electric fillet knives aren’t nearly as flexible as traditional knives. It’s much harder to do more delicate fillet work, like removing rib bones, with an electric knife over a traditional one. Professionals usually have both styles in their culinary arsenal. They will use the electric for less-delicate species to free the fillet from the body of the fish, and then turning to the traditional blade for the detail work.
4. Fillet Knife Handle
Handles can be made of everything from metal to wood to plastic, and come with all kinds of ergonomic curves. The best handle shape is really up to the individual user. Every hand and grip style is different, so you’ll have to decide which is most comfortable for you.
Regardless of handle type, you will need to consider blade tang. To ensure the blade is strong enough, the knife should have a full tang and rivets on the handle every inch or so. “Full tang” means the blade goes the entire way down into the handle. “Rivets” are just studs that secure the tang inside the handle to the handle itself. They look like little metal circles along the blade handle.
5. Other Considerations
Some fillet knives are dishwasher-safe, to reduce the clean-up routine, but others have to be washed by hand. Fillet knives also come in in different colors and different aesthetics. Electric fillet knives can be corded or battery-powered and are sometimes heavy and cumbersome.
For this guide on fillet knives, our team spent 3 hours researching the most popular options from over 30 brands and manufacturers big and small. We then read about 120 user reviews (both positive and negative) to discover what shoppers thought about each knife. After comparing this data, we narrowed our list down to the top 9 fillet knives on the market. You can count on this research to guide you to a mindful purchasing decision.
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